Amy Yang, victorious at last — The finalized field for the Olympics

The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, June 27, 2024

Happy Golf Thursday! Sahalee, or “Sahallway”, as the players pleasantly nickname it due to its narrow nature, did not disappoint on the drama last week. From Nelly Korda’s shocking Friday exit to the latest LPGA Tour winner Amy Yang’s champagne shower (which was orchestrated by Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan herself)—KPMG was an instant classic.

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Amy Yang, donning her little white bucket hat with a smiley face, is finally a major champion. The 34-year-old has had a series of near misses throughout her career, coming up short a handful of times before. With six career victories (this being her first major win), she’s previously recorded 11 top-five finishes in majors, finishing runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2012 and 2015.

Yang had most recently won the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples last November, her first win since February 2019. You could see then the deep sigh of relief from her during that trophy ceremony, with a gaggle of her peers waiting to celebrate her.

Flash forward to this past Sunday and the crowd surrounding the 18th green grew twice the size with friends ready to ring in the celebrations with her, and chants of her name from fans—a true testament to the type of player and person Yang is.

Sahalee is no walk in the park— it’s both physically and mentally demanding. Yang had to earn her victory, and with four days of extremely solid golf, she finished three strokes clear of the rest.

Mental fortitude is a skill she had to develop, as time drew on, doubt of ever capturing a major had crept in with whispers of a certain.

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Retirement was a word Yang has thrown around quite a bit, the chase for a major seemed never-ending and there are no guarantees in golf (except for just how unpredictable the game can be). “At one point, I thought will I ever win a major championship before I retire, and I finally did it, and it’s just amazing.”

It’s safe to say that Yang won’t be uttering that word anytime soon, or at least not until after August. Not only did she leave Seattle as a major winner (accompanied by a $1.56 million check), but she also solidified her spot on the Olympic team for the Republic of Korea. An announcement she found out about mid-interview live on the Golf Central set.

“I wasn’t aware of it because I really wanted to represent South Korea. That was one of my biggest goals for this year,” explained Yang. “(I’ve been) missing cuts the past few tournaments, and I saw my world ranking went down, so I wasn’t sure if this winning was enough to make the team. But I made it, so I’m very grateful for that.”

The floodgates have opened for Amy Yang…and I can speak for all of us when I say: finally.

The rest of the Olympic golf field was announced after the conclusion of KPMG, headlined by World No.1 Nelly Korda, Lilia Vu, and Rose Zhang making up the American roster.

Other notable names headed to Paris include Lydia Ko, Charley Hull, Minjee Lee, Celine Boutier, and Brooke Henderson.

For some (like Yang) their Olympic dreams will come true. For others, like Dutch player Dewi Weber, their hopes to represent their countries will have to wait another four years. Golf Digest broke the news earlier this week that Weber, who had qualified for the Summer Games, will not compete in Paris.

According to the magazine, the Netherlands will not allow her to play. “Our own country is saying we don’t think you’re worthy of being an Olympian, and you’re not worthy of representing the Netherlands,” Weber told Golf Digest on Tuesday. “And that, honestly, that hurts. We even asked them, ‘Hey, is this about money? Like, we will pay for it ourselves. Our Federation will pay for it.

“And they said no, we just don’t think you’re worth it going to the Olympics. That is such a hurtful and sad message to send to elite athletes like us who have proven, according to the IOC and IGF standards, that we are worthy of doing that and we want nothing more than to represent our country and do all the things that the Olympics are about.”

It’s a heartbreaking situation and doesn’t make sense no matter which way you look at it. The national selection criteria for the games have come into question, especially for golf, and will be modified ahead of the 2028 Olympics.

We’ll continue to follow this story, in hopes that something gives.

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Five at The IX: From junior golf to the LPGA Tour, inside Rose Zhang and Alexa Pano’s friendship

Ahead of the DOW Championship, a uniquely formatted team event on the schedule, two of the tour’s brightest stars give us a glimpse of their friendship and how it has grown now that they are pros!

Q: I’m joined here at the media center at the Dow Championship by Rose Zhang and Alexa Pano, who will be playing together this week. Talk a little bit about how excited you are for the week and the opportunity to play with each other.

ROSE ZHANG: I’m super excited. We grew up playing AJGAs together. We’ve participated in Junior Solheim, Junior Ryder Cup together. It’s just super fun to go into this week knowing a really good friend, ever since we were itty-bitty and just going out and having fun.

This event is so unique on the LPGA schedule, so being able to really just have a partner, enjoy the time, is very special.

ALEXA PANO: Yeah, I think the theme for this week is just to have as much fun as possible. We’ve been looking forward to this for a wheel now, and like Rose said, growing up together was so special, and now being able to live out our dreams on Tour together is really cool, and getting to experience an event as partners is going to be amazing.

Q. Has there been any conversation about the strategy for foursomes versus four-ball? You know each other’s games and what complements each other. How are you hoping to mesh that all together this week?

ALEXA PANO: I think we’re going to play this afternoon and see if there’s any strategy on this course. I don’t know, I feel like we know each other’s games pretty decently well, and we’re quite comfortable with each other, which I think will be to our benefit.

I know she’s a great player, so I think she’ll do all right.

ROSE ZHANG: Same goes for her. But I’d say, yeah, we grew up just playing so much golf together. I think she knows my game just as well as a lot of other players growing up. Same for her. I’ve seen her hit some crazy shots. I know she has all the shots in the bag when the time comes.

Q. Has there been any discussion about a team name or walk-up song or any options you’re looking at right now as the deadline approaches?

ALEXA PANO: There’s been so much discussion about it, probably more discussion than strategy. But our team name this week is Rolexa, just kind of combining our names. We’re still working on a walk-up song. Yeah, it was probably the hardest decision to make so far.

ROSE ZHANG: We gave it to the polls on Instagram for them to kind of be creative with it.

Q. As one of the younger duos out here this week, how do you hope to use that to your advantage? And I was going to ask about you guys got out here early on Tour. What’s it been like to see some of your friends that are working their way up to getting to this point, as well? What’s it like to follow along with them, they follow along with you?

ALEXA PANO: Yeah, I think especially when Rose got out on Tour for me, it was kind of like a breath of fresh air because everyone knew each other from long-term out here, but having one of my childhood friends get out here, it just brought me a lot of familiarity.

I know we root constantly for all of our friends, her old teammates, and eager for them to get out here with us because it’s such an amazing experience getting to compete every week with the best in the world, and getting to do that with someone that you consider like a sister or best friend just makes it even better.

ROSE ZHANG: Yeah, when I was back in school, I saw Alexa turn pro, and she was already doing so much on the Tour level. I think I was also just very inspired by that, just watching her put in the work week in, week out. I know it’s a whole lifestyle, and Alexa has been really living that out. I was inspired when I came out here and it was nice to have Alexa to be able to bounce back ideas or moments even when we have down times to really just be able to have fun, interact and just genuinely have a friend on Tour. That was what really helped me transition, too.

Q. You both mentioned familiarity. Since you two are childhood friends, Alexa, this is your second time here, Rose, this is your first. Talk about your familiarity with being foursomes and four-ball matches; does that give you guys almost a comfort level when you go out and start playing on Thursday?

ALEXA PANO: Yeah, I think trusting each other is a big thing in foursomes and there’s almost no one out here I trust more than Rose, so that’s why I picked her as my partner.

But yeah, it’s a really fun event. Like you said, it’s my second time being here, and I had the best time here last year, and so I’m just excited to get to do it again.

It’s a unique format out here, but I think foursomes is one of my favorite formats in golf, and so I’m really looking forward to teeing it up here again.

ROSE ZHANG: Same. I think the thing about foursomes and four-ball, just being with a partner, obviously there’s a bit more pressure to try to help your partner or contribute to the team, but I think since both of us know that there’s always going to be little mishaps on the golf course, I like to think that it wouldn’t waver us too much from just enjoying each other’s company when we’re out there playing but also trying to get back into it.

As long as we have that preparation in front of us, I think it’ll be good, regardless.

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Written by Addie Parker